Over the weekend we helped organize a gathering of leaders from churches and networks connected to the Fellowship of Churches of Christ. We were hosted by Canvas, members of CMF’s campus ministry team who did a great job with music, room arrangements and logistics, and food. While we were scheduled to meet from 11.00 – 1.00, many people arrived early, and even more stayed later, with the last of us leaving at 2.45pm. The conversations, prayer, and networking were so delightful and encouraging it was hard to leave!
I didn’t anticipate it, but the theme of Necessary Endings, Necessary Beginnings really struck a chord with the 30 leaders who had gathered. A number of Canvas workers are concluding or transitioning their current roles to the States or elsewhere with new works on other University campuses. Church leaders are experiencing change and challenges in their local ministries. Others are navigating decision-making processes which hold great promise and opportunities, as well as possible criticism and detractors.
Those acquainted with us know we have been working a process to discern next action steps in lovingly obeying Jesus. A year ago we had just concluded three months of travels to see churches and families that support our life and ministry as CMF church planters working with the Fellowship. Immediately after our return and while recovering from these travels, health concerns with a family member required Tam’s travel stateside yet again. When this had passed, we realized we needed to hear from God about our focus and future.
We dedicated a day to laying everything before God at a local retreat venue. We set up an easel, and recorded questions we wanted to ask God. Over a period of five hours we prayed (talking and listening), had Scripture passages come to mind, worshiped, and submitted ourselves to God’s purposes for us and service in his Kingdom. We then shared what we discerned to trusted teammates, colleagues, and friends and received very helpful feedback. Among that feedback was the suggestion we should read Dr Henry Cloud’s Necessary Endings. Some thoughts about that book can be found in an earlier posting.
While Dr. Cloud doesn’t write so much about ‘necessary beginnings’ it struck me as I was preparing for the leaders gathering that strategic beginnings are as crucial as intentional endings. I recalled a single powerful moment in 2001 with God when it dawned on me, over five years before ending our role in planting Dickens Heath Village Church and a year before launching public worship services, that I was not ready for whatever God had in mind for my leadership and passions afterwards! With that spiritual lump in my throat, I agreed with God that I would make some ‘necessary beginnings.’ It led to my work at Fuller Seminary commencing in 2003 and finishing in 2011 with a DMin degree. I am still feeding off the resources of courses with Terry Walling, Dallas Willard, Bobby Clinton, Archibald Hart, and an independent study experience with Tom Jones (Stadia). Significant friendships and current opportunities in church planting and disciple-making that we are making decisions about today can be traced back to necessary and intentional beginnings which seemed small at the time.
Transitions that come with necessary endings and necessary beginnings are always a new adventure to navigate! The old, familiar, and comfortable have to make way for the new, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable necessary beginnings. Of course, the transitions that come between seasons can be quite messy, chaotic, and topsy-turvy. Failure to strategically conclude certain activities and commitments only increases that messiness. Failure to strategically initiate different activities and commitments likewise increase the messiness.
How about you? What first, small step(s) can you make now to leverage the necessary beginning you need to make toward greater focus, fruitfulness, and effectiveness?